THE HISTORY OF GUMBOOT DANCING

Gumboot dancing was conceived by black miners in South Africa as an alternative to drumming - which authorities restricted. Another reason for gumboot dancing was for the miners in South Africa as they worked they sang.

The boots were a solution to a problem of often flooded gold mines in which men otherwise stood in knee-deep water toiling at their work stations. At worst, the men would be taken chained into the mines and shackled at their work stations in almost total darkness. With poor or non-existent drainage. For the miners, hours of standing up to their knees in infected waters brought on skin ulcers, foot problems and consequent lost work time. The bosses discovered that providing gumboots (Wellington boots) to the workers was cheaper than attempting to drain the mines. This created the miners uniform, consisting of heavy black Wellington boots, jeans, bare chest and bandannas to absorb eye-stinging sweat.

Gumboot dancing has developed into a South African art form with a universal appeal a world-known dance; in schools children perform the dance. The dancers expand upon traditional steps, with the addition of contemporary movement, music and song. Extremely physical, the dancing serves as a cathartic release, celebrating the body as an instrument, and the richness and complexities of South African culture.